Category Archives: Emotional Health

Who Am I????

All of God’s Children Are Loved, Even Me!

Modern theologian, Henri Nouwen says, “We are not what we do. We are not what others say about us. We are not what we have. We are each simply, like Jesus, God’s beloved child.” The main message of my three children’s books is “You are God’s precious child.” My goal is to plant seeds in the minds of my readers, children and parents, seeds of believing that they are loved unconditionally.

The first time I truly understood what this meant, I was speaking at the baptism of my Wfriend’s adopted child. I talked about the amazing joy that this child had brought into my friend’s home and how precious he was. As those words flowed from my heart, I heard for the first time that I had brought amazing joy as an adopted child to my parents. I had always been grateful to have a good home. Somehow, in my childhood l had missed the message that just by being alive, I had brought overwhelming joy – I had been God’s precious gift.

The second time that lesson was given to me, my supervisor in a unit of clinical pastoral education asked me to spend an entire week reading and praying with Isaiah 43: 1-4a. By the end of the week that last verse was written on my heart, “You are my precious child and I love you.”

When I fell and crushed a vertebra in my back, I received yet another opportunity to absorb God’s unconditional love. For nearly a year, I spent most of my time sitting in a zero-gravity chair, in order to manage the pain. Unable to care for others, unable to do, I learned that I was precious and loved just because I existed. At that point I was truly glad, “I was not what I did.” for then, I would have been nothing.

Never forget that both you and every person you meet – the gal with pink hair and a ring in her nose, the man with the swarthy skin, long black beard and a turban, your grandchild – each and every one of us is first and foremost God’s beloved child. Give God thanks.

What Are We Eating?

                                               What Are We Eating?                                                     (Image by Geralt on Pixabay)

At this point in my life, I am blessed with nine grandchildren, ranging in age from twenty-eight to three. They are all wonderful of course. As I interact with them, I am aware that there is one principle about relationships and facilitating another’s growth that is universal.

We all grow best when we are fed healthy, positive thoughts. What a difference it makes when we envelop a child or an adult in praise. I remember years ago when my own children were young, we arrived at a point where we were experiencing problems with our middle child. Each morning, when I placed my feet on the cold floor, I would promise myself – Before I scold my beloved son today for doing something wrong, (for I knew it would happen), I will find something positive to praise in what he has done or who he is. Some days that was a difficult promise to keep. Once I got started, I discovered that gradually the task became easier. As I fed my son healthy positive statements, his behaviour began to improve. The reality is we all respond better to love and praise than to criticism and denigration.

Today, I’m considering this principle in relation to our world. For the last decade and longer, the news media has fed us mostly information about the violence and destruction in our world. Many of us have reached the point that we try not to listen to it anymore. Some of us seem to delight in repeating the horror that is happening. WE ARE BEING FED HOPELESSNESS.

I believe it’s time to introduce some healthy, positive knowledge into our diet. It’s time to hear about the good things that are happening in our world. It’s time to be presented with the love and generosity, the random acts of kindness, the loving responses to disaster, the goodness that is present in our world. I believe that over time, the people of our world will hear the good, take it in, and rise up to become the people that God created us to be.

How can this turn-around happen? Once again, it will take each of us to promise to to search out and identify the positive things, the moments of honesty, caring, compassion, generosity that are happening. We can do it, because God is with us, and nothing is impossible with God.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV)

Computer Overload!!!

Image by Geralt

Last Wednesday, people gathered at our church in Keene from many of the area churches. My job was to check off the names as people arrived and to collect their payment for lunch. I sat behind a table ready and willing to do this simple job. I knew most of the people on my list. Welcoming them was fun at first.

Very quickly a line formed in front of me. The sound of many people talking and laughing kept increasing. As the line grew longer, and the noise grew louder, my stress level rose. My brain reacted like an overloaded computer. The names of people I knew well totally disappeared from my mind. I was embarrassed and frustrated. Why doesn’t God help me, I thought.

Sometimes our lives are like that. When the going gets tough, the noise of pain, illness, stress, worry, fear, overloads our heart and we cry out. “Why don’t you help me God?” Our minds fill with questions like: Does God truly care? Does God even exist? We feel as if God has disappeared. We’re lost and alone.

Last Wednesday, during a break in the line, I reached out to Joan who was helping with the name tags. I told her of my distress. God’s love shone through Joan’s smile and her words of comfort as she shared similar experiences and gave me encouragement. She told a funny story. We laughed. Our brief break ended as another big group came through the door. This time I felt just a little different, more relaxed, more able to admit my brain overload. People shared their stories of senior moments. God cared for me through Joan and the people in line.

Once again I was reminded, when we feel overwhelmed and God seems to have disappeared, all I need do is reach out. Share my story with someone. The Good News is that God is with me, always. When I open up, God can use the people around me to help.

Try a New Habit.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances?

In the Bible St. Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” (1Thessalonians 5:18 )  “Give thanks in all circumstances?” Impossible! Wrong! I can’t give thanks when I lose my job, my loved one dies. How then do we follow St. Paul’s words?

Check the prepositions. St. Paul says, “Give thanks IN all circumstances,” not “FOR all circumstances.” Search for the goodness of God, IN the midst of grief, fear, disappointment. There will be goodness.

When my daughter was badly injured, I wasn’t grateful for the accident. At first, I could only be grateful she wasn’t paralysed, and for the ER doctor who consulted the specialist in Kingston as soon as he saw the X-rays. As the days passed, I gave thanks for the young Mom who brought her two-week-old twins to my daughter’s hospital bedside. As Mom laid her baby on my daughter’s chest, I saw her first real smile, and knew healing would come. My gratitude list from that accident is long. When I opened my heart to the blessings, they were there.

In tough times, the search for blessings is easier if we have already developed a “gratitude habit” – a habit of seeking out and giving thanks for the blessings in our lives every single day. Internet research reveals the following two principles concerning developing a habit.

  1. New habits require over two months of repetitions and still they are fragile, easily discarded. Therefore, forget about the time required and do the repetitions.
  2. Make the commitment. Then failures won’t matter because you will just resume doing it. Neither your financial resources, your health, nor your age, nothing can steal your ability to give thanks once you’ve made the commitment.

Seeking out and recognizing our blessings is worth the effort and practice. This Thanksgiving, I suggest you develop a gratitude habit. It may not mean more money, or things, or success, but it will mean more joy in your life. The gratitude habit will shift your focus from not enough to counting your blessings.

Love Is the Key


The movie “A Wrinkle in Time” opens in theatres next month. A passage from the book has been with me for many years. This children/adult fantasy is the story of Meg’s journey to seek and rescue her little brother Charles Wallace. Three creatures, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who & Mrs. Which, give her gifts to help. In the following passage all Meg knows about Mrs. Which’s gift is that Meg has something that the evil “It” has not. When she finds her brother, “It” has invaded him. She feels “It’s” power attempting to overtake her mind as well.

“Her body trembled with the strength of her hatred and the strength of It…Hate was nothing that IT didn’t have. IT knew all about hate… “Mrs. Whatsit hates you,” Charles Wallace said.
And that was where IT made it’s fatal mistake, for as Meg said, automatically, “Mrs. Whatsit loves me, that’s what she told me, that she loves me,” suddenly she knew! Love. That was what she had that IT did not have. She had Mrs. Whatsit’s love, and her father’s, and her mother’s and the real Charles Wallace’s love, and the twins’ and Aunt Beast’s. And she had love for them.
But how could she use it? What was she meant to do? If she could give love to It, perhaps It would shrivel up and die, for she was sure that IT could not withstand love. But she, in all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness was incapable of loving IT…she could not do it.
But she could love Charles Wallace…her own Charles Wallace, the real Charles Wallace…the baby who was so much more than she was, and who was yet so utterly vulnerable. She could love Charles Wallace.
Charles, I love you. My baby brother who always takes care of me. Come back to me, Charles Wallace, come away from IT, come back, come home. I love you, Charles Wallace…”

Love is the key, the key to world peace and to environmental degradation. When we learn to use it wisely and with passion, we can change the world.

A Day of Rest? Guess Not!

In these few days between Christmas joy and New Year’s celebrations, I began my morning prayers with gratitude for a time of rest. I’m sure God laughed as I also gave thanks for the desire to walk on my elliptical trainer for 5 minutes three times today, and the desire to get back to editing the sequel to Fireweed. Then I asked for the motivation to clean up my study that has become the repository of the Christmas chaos. Obviously, my idea of what constitutes rest is a little strange.

Still I had wakened feeling good, ready to write something. A few moments with my inspirational reading and these words came. I looked at them, and thought. I can’t post these. I’m not sad today. The sun is shining. Our Christmas family gatherings have been full of love and joy. Yet, God offered me, these words. They must be needed by someone. So here they are.

Tears

I remember when
I did not cry.
I feared my pain.
I did not know
Tears healing power.

The dam is cracked.
Tears seep through
Unbidden, unwanted.
There is no patch
To hold them back.

The crack widens
Control is gone.
Those tears pour through.
Unchecked and free

Tears are my words
The best I have.
They’ll wash me clean.
They’ll bring new life.

THANK YOU, GOD.

 

How Do We Prepare for Peace?

This is Christmas!

The December 10, 2017 reading from the Daily Disciplines published by the Upper Room touched my heart. I will share it with you in its entirety. I typed this into my computer this morning before church. I didn’t have time to look for a picture, besides where would I find a picture of a tree covered with white envelopes. When worship was over we went to the church hall for refreshments. This tree stood by yesterday’s bake table, resplendent in it’s white notes waiting to be part of our tree lighting tonight. God incidents never cease to amaze me. I pray this story will speak to you as it did to me. Blessings as you wait for the Christ child.

“Mike hated the commercialism of Christmas. When forced to retire early, he checked out altogether. ‘Get me nothing,’ he crouched, ‘until people understand what Christmas is all about.’ That year, his wife, Nan, gave him a white envelope, which she nestled into the tree. Inside, Nan pledged to sew uniforms for an underprivileged wrestling team. Once she started, Mike decided to help. Together, they sized the children, cut the fabric and befriended the school kids. By year’s end, Mike was ready for another envelope. Each year thereafter, Nan gave him another envelope. The acts of kindness they shared together sprouted throughout their city: birdhouses for a refuge shelter, a playground for an orphaned children’s home, a community garden from a vacant lot. Those became the best years of Nan’s and Mike’s lives.

One year, Mike died just three days before Christmas. Friends and family gathered to share Nan’s grief. On Christmas Eve, Nan placed for Mike, one last envelope into the tree. She awoke Christmas morning to squeals downstairs. As she came down, she saw their Christmas tree covered in white. Dozens of envelopes from every child, grandchild, nephew and niece – pledged acts of kindness in honor of Mike, the man who had come to love Christmas.

How do we wait faithfully for God in today’s wilderness? The prophet Isaiah says, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” We pave a straight path for through acts of kindness, justice, generosity and compassion. When we love, God will come. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me,’ John says. As sure as a baby’s birth in a manger, as abundant as Christmas envelopes multiplying into the future, God will walk the path laid out. Love will encompass the world.

PEACE WILL COME!!!!!

Dear God, Baby of the Manger, may each act of kindness be a straw in your crib, preparing the way for your coming. Amen

I Love My Body!

I woke Sunday morning at 5:55. My alarm was set for six. My first thought, I love my body. God has gifted me with an inner alarm. I usually don’t trust it so I set my clock alarm, but I don’t have to. I automatically wake up just before the alarm rings. Tom appreciates my gift, too, especially on days when he doesn’t have to be up early.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember ever before thinking, I love my body. Usually, I look at my body and groan. Twenty pounds lighter would make my knees much happier and my clothes look better. I’ve got love handles, and a tummy that is rounder than it should be. My ankles are slightly swollen. My skin is dry. I’ve got lots of wrinkles. Those miserable brown age spots keep popping up here and there. Yes, normally I’m not at all happy with my body. And I don’t think I’m alone in this world.

Our society has taught us to be dissatisfied with our bodies. Watch your weight. Don’t eat too much. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. Try this diet. No, try that one. If you want to be beautiful, you have to be thin. And so, the messages come at us, fast and furious.

My daughter is a child psychologist. She speaks a different message. “Learn to love your body as it is,” she says. So today, I suggest, appreciate the wonder of your body. Across from me is a vase filled with majestic, brightly coloured gladioli. On the windowsill, are delicate sweet peas. I can see their beauty and smell their sweet fragrance. At night as I go to sleep, I hear Tom whisper, “I love you.” I wake up, and I can still walk. My arms can reach out to hug my fabulous granddaughter.  And those are only a few of the wonders of my body. There is a children’s song titled “Oh, What a Miracle Am I.” It’s time we all tried chanting that line.

Yes, I can love my body even though it’s aging. I have decided to repeat those beautiful words, I love my body, every day as I get up. And give God thanks. What better way to start my day.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

How Does God Deal with Our Choices for Evil

When a child dies. A well-intentioned friend sometimes offers comfort to the grieving parents with, “God needed your child in heaven.” A natural disaster, or strange misfortune is greeted with, “God must have had a reason.”

The Bible story of Joseph, the favored child, is often cited as the basis of this kind of thinking. Joseph’s older brothers, in their anger and jealousy, sold him to merchants travelling to Egypt. They told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. Years later, his brothers, come to Egypt as refugees from famine. They meet Joseph as the prime minister, who now has the power to save his family from starvation. Joseph explains, “It was not you who sent me here (to Egypt), but God.” (Genesis 45:8).

THIS MAY COMFORT SOME PEOPLE, BUT NOT ME. The loving God I have encountered in my life and in the Bible stories of Jesus, tells me a different story. Our God given gift of free will means we can make good choices to love and care for each other and we can use our free will in anger and jealousy, as Joseph’s brothers did. Our loving God is never defeated by our choices. God has the power to bring goodness out of the worst we can do, BUT God does NOT need us to do bad things or to experience misery to accomplish goodness.

I believe Joseph had the position and therefore the power to rescue his brothers, because our loving God worked with Joseph to use his intelligence, his location and his faith to prepare him to forgive and help his family. God brought new life, amazing new life out of Joseph’s brother’s evil choices, just as God brought the resurrection out of our choice to crucify Jesus.

Some people would say this is just a matter of semantics, playing with words. I don’t agree. I believe that God’s love can take the worst that we can do, and the worst that can happen, and create goodness. But God doesn’t need us to make evil choices or experience painful things in order to create that goodness.

With this mind-set, we are not puppets in the hands of a capricious, often vengeful God, who requires war and death, evil and violence to accomplish goodness. No! No! No! With this mindset, we have freedom to make choices, good choices of love and care, poor choices, and sometimes even choices for evil. God can draw from within the results of our choices, even at our worst, the means to create goodness.

For me this applies to our resurrection story. My theology of Jesus tells me that he loved us so much that he wouldn’t stop loving us even when we were at our worst. God used that endless, generous love to bring the lesson of forgiveness and resurrection, NEW LIFE, not just for Jesus but for all of us.

When we trust in a loving God, when we open our hearts to that love, we will eventually see and experience that goodness. In fact, God invites us to participate in the creation of that goodness.

For this understanding of God, I give God thanks.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Faith and Fear Walk Hand in Hand

Courage
Courage

I’m not sure what is happening. I know only that I have been reading Psalms, traditional and modern, something new. And now poetry is flowing from my pen onto paper, my fingertips onto the keyboard. I’ve been listening to the confusion, the fear, that is filling our hearts as we hear words of intolerance and isolationism shouted at us through the media. Today, as we approach the first Sunday of Advent, I have two poems for you.

Prayer
Prayer

Lament

Hate is spreading.
Intolerance growing.
The icy fingers of fear
are creeping in
through the cracks of our being.
What can I do?

I teach your love.
I write. I speak.
Some listen.
Your love touches a few.
Hatred has gone viral.
Money and knowledge lead the way
Manipulate the media.

One at a time
That was Jesus’ “way”.
A finger in the dyke.
Can that hold back the flood?
Of evil unleashed.
Destruction, murder, genocide
It’s happened before.
It continues to happen.

God says,
“Only love can defeat evil.”
I know from experience,
God’s love can overcome.
God’s love is stronger than death.
God’s love does bring new life.

Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer,
Help us! Please!

Trust
Trust

Advent/Christmas?

A baby is born?
Bringing Wisdom, Compassion
Is there time?

Intolerance grows.
Fear festers.
Evil’s response to love.
A last gasp.
A last grasp for total power.
How big? How long?

I will trust in God,
who walked on water,
healed the sick,
brought sight to the blind.
I will trust in God,
who died in love,
defeated death
brought new life.
I will trust in God.

I will continue to love,
to love this world into new life.
I will trust in God.

This is my faith.